In decades gone by launching a music career from your garage was a gritty experience. The rock stars of tomorrow would typically record a demo on a 4-track cassette deck. Then ferry it around one local bar to another, and look to build a following gigging anywhere they could.
Today a laptop, some recording gear, and a Spotify upload can get you on the path to global fame. Yes music technology has evolved and gone digital. But knowing where to begin – and what gear you need to get decent results – can still be a real challenge for new musicians.
So what gadgets do you need to seek out a gold record? And what’s the best recording setup you can get that’s great and budget-friendly? Let’s look now.
Sound and Images
Unlike a dedicated gaming rig that needs high-end hardware for advanced visual output, a musician’s computer can be more basic. In fact, odds are good if you’re reading this article on a desktop or laptop right now it’ll be able to deliver what you need. There are two qualifications to this though.
First, although your tech needs may be more straightforward it’s still wise to have as much RAM as you can. Extra RAM will guard against your computer lagging and freezing. Delivering up frustrations as you try to finally nail that guitar solo in one take. Second, it’s important to not confuse basic computer needs with basic accessory needs.
Because this is one area where a musician will have more complex needs than other computer users. For example, in a pinch, a gamer can get by with a forgettable set of speakers or headphones. It’s not ideal but they can get by for a round or two. The same doesn’t apply to recording music, where hearing loud and clear is critical.
Needs and Wants
You’ll find needs and wants are a challenge when it comes to setting up a home recording studio. Especially because it can often be hard to distinguish between needs and wants. What you need to obtain a sound recording you’re happy to work with, and products that you want down the line.
And at the core part of this will always come down to personal taste and preference. But the following are general, entry-level components. These are needs you do need to start recording:
1. A Digital Audio Workstation/Audio Interface Combo
An Audio Interface (AI) is the physical device that will record the audio you create via your microphone and instruments. It is possible to buy DAW and AI separate. And if you’re all set to use free software like GarageBand for now then buying just an AI may be best. But be mindful it’s usually more affordable to buy them together.
2. A Quality Microphone
Your smartphone mic is fine for recording audio notes on the go but won’t cut the mustard in a recording studio. Nor will that karaoke mic you’ve used a few times with your gaming console.
A quality microphone isn’t just essential for recording singing. It can also be used to record percussion instruments like drums and acoustic guitar. Devices that won’t (typically) have an audio input. Be sure to also see any microphone you buy has a pop filter to get the most of your recordings.
3. A Great Pair of Headphones
Ideally you’d always be recording and mixing on speakers. In the long-term using studio monitors or nearfield monitors in a treated room is the ideal way for a serious musician to mix music.
But sometimes your budget or current living arrangements would make mixing difficult. After all, your neighbour in the apartment next door may sadly not be a fan of your Screamo EP. In cases like this a quality pair of headphones can be a great starting point. It means you can still mix but do it quietly.
4. New Cables
Lots of music equipment you buy will come with audio cables odds. Yet odds are good you’ll need a couple of new ones to use your equipment with your AI. If your budget allows it’s always good to think long-term here and buy cables a little longer than you need right now. They’ll come in handy in the future if you decide to record a live album!
5. External Storage
You may not hear Keith Richards or Beyonce riffing each day about how much they love external hard drives. Yet if your computer crashes it could take all your recordings with it. Yes you can back up your songs in cloud, but takes longer and can become expensive once you have to pay for storage. The best way to backup is to do so multiple times over multiple devices. So having external storage is essential.
This list here is the basic necessities you can use to kick off a home recording studio. Of course some may say other parts could be on the list. But however you slice it, if you have these 5 you can begin recording with confidence. Any gadgets you add after are a bonus when starting out.
And as always if you have an issue with the setup, installation, or ongoing operation of your music studio? Get in touch with my team. We’re always at the ready to help you.
Until next time, happy teching!
Paul & the HorizonTech Team